One month ago, sixty people from six continents gathered in Jamaica to pray, listen, reflect and call for action. The Lausanne Consultation on Creation Care and the Gospel, co-sponsored by the World Evangelical Alliance, was based on the belief that creation care is a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ, and also that today there is a vital urgency about our task. A Facebook friend, discovering I was there, asked: ‘What about the carbon?’ Fair question; creation care is not well served by jet-setting to endless conferences1. Such gatherings are only valid if they make a significant difference. By their fruit you shall know them.
The fruit in Jamaica was also fantastic – fresh papaya, pineapple, guava and melons. But along the roadsides were banana plantations scattered haphazardly by hurricane Sandy. The fruit of a changing climate is less easy to stomach, not just in Jamaica (and whilst no individual hurricane can be ascribed to Climate Change, such freak storms fit exactly with the scientific projections). The arctic ice-cap melted more than ever this summer, world grain prices are rocketing after weird global weather patterns, thousands of people are migrating to ‘safer’ countries as their homes become unliveable and millions more are predicted to join them soon, but nowhere is safe, as Hurricane Sandy so brutally reminded the people of New York. And yet, as in the time of Noah, many people, especially in comfortable western churches, don’t want to know.
At the consultation we heard voices from the global church, amid a growing sense that the wounds we are causing to God’s world, by neglect, greed, and apathy are causing a groaning in God’s heart, in creation itself, and in the hearts of all who seek God’s shalom for creation and its creatures (Romans 8:22-26).
The fruit from this Lausanne Consultation will consist in how the worldwide church responds to the Call to Action it issued. Building on the Cape Town Commitment, it was potentially the most significant evangelical gathering on creation care ever held, but only if the church hears its reminder that, “Love for God, our neighbours and the wider creation, as well as our passion for justice, compel us to urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility.” We asserted that Christians need to lament, pray, re-read the scriptures, change lifestyles, listen to the global south and those affected most by environmental change, and take radical action at every level in partnership with others – Christian and non-Christian. Do read and sign the statement if you feel able, and get your church and others to publicise it too.
But please, please go beyond adding a virtual signature. This is a call to action, not armchair reflection. Action that is prayer-fuelled and biblically-rooted but that leads to practical transformation. It is worded in very general terms because it is global, so I suggest we each need to work out what it means in our contexts – our lifestyles, churches, local communities, businesses, national politics, and international advocacy. We cannot do this alone, and need to listen particularly to the voices of those suffering most from a wounded planet.
In Jamaica’s fertile soil, amidst the destruction of hurricane Sandy, shoots of new growth are already emerging. As the Lausanne ‘Call to Action’ takes root around the world, what response will it find in the soil of local churches and Christian organisations? Will it face a stony silence, be eaten up by armchair critics, or overwhelmed by competing priorities? Or will it produce signs of hope amidst a growing climate of despair? By their fruit you shall know them.
1 A Rocha seeks to minimise unnecessary air-travel through phone conferencing and offsets all its flights through www.climatestewards.net